We became aware of a bit of sad news today: Hans Holzer, celebrated parapsychologist and author of numerous books about the paranormal, the most famous of which is undoubtedly Murder at Amityville (1979), the basis for the film Amityville II: The Possession, has passed away at the age of 89.
The following is an excerpt from the obituary printed by the UK’s Daily Telegraph for Mr. Holzer:
Hans Holzer was born in Vienna on January 26, 1920, and developed an interest in the supernatural from his uncle Henry, who told him ghost stories. He earned a master’s degree in comparative religion and claimed a doctorate in parapsychology at an elusive London College of Applied Science (not, it appears, London, England). He went on to teach parapsychology at the New York Institute of Technology and embarked on his long career as a writer and “ghost hunter” (the title of his first book, published in 1963).
Holzer’s field research, usually conducted with a “trance” medium and a Polaroid camera, led him to the conclusion that “the other side” (a phrase he is said to have invented) is very like this side, only with more red tape. The dead who wish to return to earth have to get permission from “spirit guides”, then wait in a queue and register with a clerk.
Holzer, a vegan from his early 40s, wrote well over 100 books on ghosts and other paranormal and occult phenomena, such as Ghosts I’ve Met (1965), Yankee Ghosts (1966), and The Great British Ghost Hunt (1975). Other books dealt with witches and warlocks, UFOs and extraterrestrials, psychic healing and hypnosis. His 13 novels included The Psychic World of Bishop Pike (1970).
Holzer embarked on his most famous investigation in 1977, following reports about a family who claimed to have been terrorised by paranormal phenomena after moving into a sprawling colonial mansion in Amityville, Long Island, in 1975. The house had been the scene of a grisly multiple murder a little over a year before, when 23-year-old Ronnie DeFeo went from room to room shooting his parents and his four siblings in their beds.
Holzer visited the house in company with a medium who claimed to have “channelled” the spirit of an angry Shinnecock Indian by the name of Chief Rolling Thunder, who informed her that the house stood on an ancient Indian burial ground. Meanwhile Holzer took photographs of bullet holes from the murders, around which mysterious halos appeared. The murderer, he suggested, had become possessed by the Indian chief.
There were at least two problems with this theory. The local historical society disputed the idea that there had ever been a burial ground at the site, and descendants of the Montaukett Indians pointed out that they, and not the Shinnecocks, had been the original inhabitants of Amityville. But Holzer was undeterred, and as well as his “non-fiction” account went on to publish two novels based on the story.
Mr. Holzer is survived by two daughters. Our condolences to them as well as his other family members and friends. [And thanks to long-time reader Freddy_K’s_Daughter for the info.]
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